Since the introduction of the internet to the general public, there has been a steady increase in the number of cons perpetrated through the internet, especially romance scams. And as a result of mandatory shutdowns and requirements for social distance in 2020 and 2021, more individuals spent more time online than ever before. This provided con artists with even more opportunities to target unwary users in a variety of different ways.
There is a widespread belief that older populations are more susceptible to being taken advantage of by con artists operating online. This belief stems from the fact that older individuals may not necessarily be as knowledgeable about technology as younger generations. And sadly, data show that older people are more likely to fall victim to financial scams than younger generations are. Despite this, a bigger proportion of young individuals really fall for scams, demonstrating that consumers of any age may become victims of a scam.
What exactly are these “romance scams”?
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a romance scam is when a criminal creates a fake profile and pretends to have a romantic interest in another online user – either through a dating app or website, an online chat room, or a social media platform – in order to create a feeling of intimate trust with the goal of scamming the victim out of money. This can happen either through a dating app or website, an online chat room, or a social media platform.
Scammers in the romance industry sometimes target elderly people who have been bereaved or divorced. They often prey on the victims’ vulnerabilities or wants and strive diligently to establish an intimate “connection” in the shortest amount of time feasible. After that, they would use deception to get the victim to provide private or financial information.
Romance scammers will often make an effort to make their victims feel valued and important to them. They may make a marriage proposal and say they’d be willing to meet in person, but they’ll never really carry through any of those commitments. Scams involving romantic relationships may affect people of any gender and can be very damaging on both a financial and an emotional level.
Sadly, the number of victims of romance scams rose by roughly 40 percent between 2018 and 2019. As is the case with other types of internet cons, romantic cons are on the increase. Scammers that prey on those looking for love will create fictitious narratives, make false promises, and create false emergencies in the hopes that their victims will pay them money.
The proliferation of dating apps and websites has made it more difficult to identify false accounts that romance scammers really use to trick unsuspecting victims into believing they are in a romantic relationship. The following article will provide you with five red flags that will assist you in recognizing a romance scam.
Signs of a romance scammer
1. The romance scammer is ready to refer to it as love
The person perpetrating the romance scam will quickly ‘fall in love’ with the victim and will honestly express their love for them. Their objective is to get emotional control over the victim in the shortest amount of time feasible, preferably before the victim understands they are the target of a con.
The con artist will often use appealing and romantic expressions of affection, such as ‘dear,’ ‘darling,’ and ‘love of my life’. They would tell the victim that the blooming relationship is due to destiny or fate, in an effort to make the victim feel as unique as possible.
Scammers who masquerade as romantic interests may sometimes make hasty marriage proposals. They may express exaggerated thanks to their victims for their love and support in an effort to persuade their victims to rescue them from exceedingly awful situations and marry them as a result of their manipulation.
Be aware if someone you are actively chatting with tries to create an intimate connection with you in a very short time; this might be a red flag that they are attempting to con you out of money.
2. The profile of the romance scammers is lacking in detail or has very few photographs
You may also identify whether the person you are contacting could be a romance scammer by looking at the photographs they have uploaded to their profile. These con artists will often assume the identity of another person, and they will probably only have one or two photographs of the person they are purporting to be.
On the other hand, members of genuine dating websites often upload many photos of themselves in a variety of settings, ranging from close-ups of their faces to photographs of their whole bodies. Scammers that prey on people looking for love sometimes post photographs on their accounts that obscure most or all of their faces. When compared to the other photographs on their profile, such photos may not be easily recognized.
3. The romance scammer solicits financial assistance
If a person you have met online who you are interested in romantically asks you for money before you have ever seen them in person, this is a major warning sign that you are likely being conned. Romance fraudsters are experts at making up plausible scenarios. When they approach you for financial assistance, they will often give you one of the following explanations:
Payment for travel costs (alleging they want to come to see you in person)
Payment for unforeseen costs such as medical bills or other expenditures.
Payment for gambling debts or other forms of debts, so that they may begin a new life with you and start over.
Swindlers who prey on people via online dating services sometimes fabricate elaborate excuses for their victims’ misfortune in order to trick them into giving money to them. The important point here is that whenever someone you meet online asks you for money, regardless of how plausible the argument may seem, you should assume that you are being scammed.
4. He is interested in switching to a more intimate communication
Dating websites and mobile applications have measures in place to assist in the detection of fraudsters and, subsequently, the removal of scammers from their platforms. Because of this, romance scammers could make a hasty attempt to convince you to switch to a mode of communication that is more discreet, such as texting or emailing. However, this is a murky subject since even those who are really interested in a romantic relationship will at some point wish to shift their interactions off of the dating site.
In a nutshell, it is risky to provide romance scammers with sensitive information like your main email address or phone number. Scammers may use this information to steal your identity. It’s possible that the safest course of action would be to maintain communication via the dating website or app until you’ve actually met the person you’re interested in romantically. Consider it a warning sign if they try to convince you to quit using the app before you are prepared to do so.
5. He will make arrangements to see you but something unexpected will come up
Scammers who prey on people looking for love will often create false profiles in order to conceal their true identities. Romance scammers will often keep making promises to meet in person, even if it involves travelling across the world, in an effort to both maintain your interest in the relationship and prevent you from doubting their authenticity.
However, when the time gets closer for you two to meet, the person trying to take advantage of you will often have an urgent matter come up. Their narratives are often complex and filled with feelings, both of which have the potential to persuade a victim who is blinded by love. These created situations provide the chance for them to beg for financial assistance from you at the appropriate time.
How to safeguard yourself against romance scammers
As was previously said, anyone might fall victim to a romantic hoax. Nevertheless, according to the BBB’s 2019 Scam Tracker Risk Report findings, the likelihood of romantic scams occurring is higher for those over 50. If you date online, you should use these best practices to protect yourself from someone trying to con you out of money in the name of love.
1. Pay heed to the warning signs
The more you know, the easier it will be for you to recognize con artists that prey on those looking for love. Pay heed to the warning signs that have been given above, and listen to your gut instinct if you get the impression that something is odd about the person you are conversing with.
Someone who is really interested in you romantically will understand – and ideally, even value – your desire to exercise caution in matters of personal security, and they will be prepared to give you the space and time you need to ascertain if they are a real person. On the other hand, a person trying to take advantage of your romantic feelings could put pressure on you to stop “being suspicious” and insist that you trust them regardless of the circumstances.
2. Allow love to grow slowly and gradually
It’s only normal to have the desire to find true love and have a whirlwind, fairytale romance with your significant other. However, genuine partnerships often emerge over the course of time. Spend some time getting to know your new romantic interest, and make sure to give them plenty of time to do the same with you. If this person wants to move too quickly, you should think about the possibility that this relationship is not a safe one to pursue.
3. Establish a video conversation with them to confirm their identification
Setting up a video chat is a quick and simple approach to determining whether or not a person is who they claim to be. Romance scammers sometimes assume the identities of other people in order to defraud others. Video conversations enable you to connect from any location and observe the other person in real-time, regardless of whether they have located in another country or a great distance from you. Even while this will assist in identifying someone, you still need to be cautious about giving up too much personal information too quickly.
4. Do some research about the individual to whom you are writing
The majority of individuals in this day and age have many social media accounts on a variety of platforms, each of which has a large number of images recording their life. Investigate the existence of your cyber sweetie on other platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn, to ensure that they are who they claim to be.
You may also do a reverse image search using the person’s picture by utilizing the photo from their online dating profile. You may copy the picture URL by right-clicking it and selecting “Copy,” then either upload the image to images.google.com or download it first. Your “honey” from the internet could very well be a romance scammer if you find their picture posted on a stock photo website or if you notice any other suspicious behavior from them.
5. Never send money to someone you aren’t completely familiar with
Never provide your financial information to anybody you meet via an online dating site or app. Before ever discussing financial matters with another individual, it is important first to establish a personal connection with them and earn their complete confidence.
Report your online dating partner to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible if they ask you to give them money, particularly if they ask you to buy gift cards on their behalf, transfer them money, or return money to them from a check that they’ve sent you.
6. Discuss your feeling with a close friend or a family member you can trust
When someone is trying to manipulate you in the present moment, it can be difficult to recognize when they are doing so. It is usually a good idea to discuss your experiences with online dating with a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are participating in online dating. If you cannot see potentially suspicious behavior for what it is, checking with a close friend or family member who can examine the relationship from an outside viewpoint may be quite helpful.